Projects by Prof. Sandra Babcock's Human Rights Clinic
Below are some examples of the projects recently undertaken by Professor Babcock's students at the International Human Rights Clinic.
ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF PRISONERS IN MALAWI AND TANZANIA
Since 2007, Professor Babcock’s clinic students have contributed to the release of more than 250 Malawian prisoners through a combination of bail arguments, sentence negotiations, and appeals. More than 140 of these prisoners were formerly sentenced to death. Students have traveled to Malawi to interview prisoners, conduct investigation in rural villages, and provide human rights training to judges, lawyers, paralegals, village mediators, and human rights advocates. Students have also been able to argue for bail for certain prisoners who would otherwise have no legal representation whatsoever.
Since 2017, clinic students have also assisted in the representation of Tanzanian prisoners before national courts and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Students have interviewed clients in Zanzibar’s central prison and have traveled to remote villages to interview family members. They have been instrumental in preparing submissions to the African Court documenting fair trial violations in the cases of prisoners who were denied the right to adequate legal representation.
DOCUMENTATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THE OCCUPIED GOLAN
The clinic also works with Al Marsad, a legal human rights organization located in Majdal Shams, a Syrian Arab village in the Occupied Golan. Clinic students have traveled to the Golan to document violations of the Syrian Arab community’s rights to self-determination, control over land and natural resources, cultural rights, and rights to life and freedom of movement, and summarized their findings in a report to the UN Human Rights Committee. In 2019, the clinic is engaged in an effort to stop a massive wind farm project that will destroy the way of life of the Syrian Arabs living in Majdal Shams.
PETITION TO UN COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, AND CULTURAL RIGHTS ON BEHALF OF WESTERN SAHARAN PEOPLE
In 2015, the clinic filed two reports with the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights on behalf of the Western Saharan people, arguing that Morocco has violated their right to self-determination along with their economic and cultural rights through its illegal occupation of the territory. Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara since 1975. Not a single country recognizes Morocco’s territorial rights, and the UN has repeatedly called for a referendum on the people’s right to self-determination. Clinic students traveled to Geneva to present arguments to Committee members, and met with country delegations and special mandate holders to promote vindication of the rights of the Western Saharan people.
ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF MEXICAN NATIONALS FACING EXECUTION IN THE UNITED STATES
One of the clinic’s long-standing clients is the Government of Mexico, which has established a legal assistance program for Mexican nationals facing the death penalty in the United States. Clinic students have assisted in clemency campaigns on behalf of Mexican nationals facing imminent execution by drafting petitions to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, appealing to state clemency boards, and mobilizing community support.
Clinic students have been involved in litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ohio Supreme Court in support of Mexican national José Loza Ventura, a Mexican national sentenced to death in Ohio. Ohio authorities never informed Mr. Loza of his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which entitled him to have the Mexican consulate notified of his detention. The community where Mr. Loza was prosecuted has a history of discrimination against racial minorities, and the lead detective called Mr. Loza a “wetback” in the course of the investigation. Student have also filed a clemency petition on Mr. Loza’s behalf, and are currently working on an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.
INVESTIGATION AND REPORTING ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN BURMA
At the request of the Women’s Organization Network (WON) in Burma, the clinic is assisting in the investigation and reporting on violations of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Burma. This project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice.
REPORT ON REPRESSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN ETHIOPIA
Clinic students drafted a comprehensive report on Ethiopian legislation that effectively banned organizations engaged in human rights advocacy. In conjunction with the launch of the report, students met with members of the U.S. Congress, interviewed Ethiopian human rights advocates, and wrote letters to the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry on behalf of human rights advocates who had been unjustly imprisoned.
TAKING OF TESTIMONY FOR LIBERIAN TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
In collaboration with the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Advocates for Human Rights, clinic students were trained to interview Liberian refugees in the United States to gather information about their experiences during the civil war in Liberia. The information was recorded and transmitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, representing the first time that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission attempted to gather evidence from the diaspora community.